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  1. #1
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    Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    04/12/2010

    If only it were a matter of standing tall in the pocket and throwing the ball through a wall. Evaluating talent is always a crapshoot in the NFL draft. But picking a quarterback?

    Double tough.

    There's so much that goes into playing the position, things that can't be timed or measured, things that have absolutely nothing to do with size or arm strength. Which helps explain why even at the top of draft there's a Ryan Leaf for every Peyton Manning; an Akili Smith for every Donovan McNabb. MORE RAMS


    Rams general manager Billy Devaney says he has learned this lesson the hard way at times over his career as an NFL personnel evaluator.

    "I've come full circle," Devaney said. "If you don't have the intangibles to play that position. ..."

    Well, it's probably not going to work.

    Devaney was with the San Diego Chargers when they drafted Leaf — a colossal bust — No. 2 overall in 1998. And that experience helped change his thinking.

    "To me, the physical skills are almost the easy part now (in evaluating) these kids," Devaney said. "There's so much that goes into being a quarterback in the NFL. The work ethic that you have to have. The leadership. The time that you put in. The media scrutiny. If you can't handle all that stuff, you're going to have a hard time performing on the field."

    As they decide whether to take Sam Bradford, or perhaps trade down for Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy, the Rams are factoring lots of traits and characteristics into the evaluation process.

    FOLLOW ME

    "The teams that have been successful lately, it seems to me they have those leadership-type guys," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Guys that can get the job done in a pinch. Certainly you want all the other things that go with (playing quarterback) — a guy that can throw the football, all the physical qualities. But leadership to me is really important at that position."

    In Detroit, coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions felt the same way en route to deciding on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as No. 1 overall.

    "Does the team believe in this quarterback's ability to win?" Schwartz said. "If you can't cross that hurdle, it doesn't matter how strong his arm is, or how smart he is, or how fast he is or any of those other things. He's the leader of the team, and if a team doesn't have confidence in that player, then you're never going to get anywhere with him."

    Leadership doesn't show up on game film. So it takes lots of research, but there should be a track record in college and earlier.

    "You just grind as much as you can, talk to as many people, and try to get as accurate a picture as you can on the guy," Devaney said.

    "Hopefully, you're getting good information," Spagnuolo said.

    THE MENTAL GAME

    You can be the brightest quarterback around in terms of IQ, but if you don't see the field, recognize coverages, see receivers breaking open — and do it quickly — it's hard to be successful in the NFL.

    "We all wonder about the Wonderlic test and so forth," NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt said. "But there's a lot of times you have smart players that don't have mental quickness."

    Some of these traits are discernible on film. But teams also like to test a quarterback prospect by getting him in front of a greaseboard and having him talk X's and O's.

    Brandt tells a story of one such meeting this year with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and an NFL team. When the team asked him about a specific play, Tebow replied: "This is how it's called at Florida, this is how it's called with your organization, and this is how it's called with West Coast teams."

    "When you get a quarterback and he reacts that quickly, you know that the guy not only is pretty smart but he has that mental quickness to adjust very fast," said Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys personnel guru.

    Apparently, not all the quarterbacks in this year's draft pool have handled their greaseboard sessions as well as Tebow.

    "If he can't explain the thing, and corrects himself — and corrects himself in the middle of it — then how can he handle the volume of what we're going to throw at him in the NFL?" said a veteran QB coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

    According to this coach, that's what happened with a quarterback prospect during the pre-draft process for his NFL team. "And that kid happened to be one of the most talented guys in the draft," the coach said. "If I'm on that team, and he can't say that play in the huddle, can I follow this guy?"

    Of course, it's easy to show off football acumen with a grease marker in your hand. But what about with a blitzing linebacker in your face? Of after getting crunched — again — by a defensive end?

    "A lot of times you watch a college player on a good team and he might get hit once or twice in a game, and he's not throwing under a lot of pressure a lot of the time," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "That's not the way our (NFL) game is played. They've got to throw in tight quarters. They've got to throw the ball with guys getting ready to hit them in the face. And then they've got to get up and throw it again the next down."

    Be it Bradford, Clausen, McCoy — whoever — that's what everyone in the quarterback Class of 2010 will face at the next level.

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second. By mid way through the first we'll know what the Qb situations is and we can react. Plus this year that second round pick has a great value and we might be able to move down AND grab Colt McCoy.

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Solid article. I wanted to highlight this part particularly...

    Of course, it's easy to show off football acumen with a grease marker in your hand. But what about with a blitzing linebacker in your face? Of after getting crunched — again — by a defensive end?

    "A lot of times you watch a college player on a good team and he might get hit once or twice in a game, and he's not throwing under a lot of pressure a lot of the time," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "That's not the way our (NFL) game is played. They've got to throw in tight quarters. They've got to throw the ball with guys getting ready to hit them in the face. And then they've got to get up and throw it again the next down."

    Be it Bradford, Clausen, McCoy — whoever — that's what everyone in the quarterback Class of 2010 will face at the next level.
    More than a few times, when someone brings up a concern about Bradford not playing in a pro-style offense, the response is, "But Bradford took a lot of snaps under center his freshman year, so it won't be a problem." Of course, being able to physically handle the snap from under center probably isn't the biggest reason people bring up the transition from spread to pro-style offense. It's reasons like the ones Norv Turner highlights here.

    As the name would imply, the spread offense spreads the defense out across the field, not only stretching them perhaps too thin but also creating mismatches against receiving targets while limiting the options of their defense in terms of pressure.

    Sure, you can bring seven defenders in a pressure package if you want, but that means at least one of my five receiving targets is uncovered and the rest are likely in single coverage. You can walk your linebackers out to cover my slot target, but chances are he's much faster and it won't be tough making that throw given the separation.

    Don't get me wrong, Sam Bradford has a very quick, accurate release. But there's a reason Landry Jones was also sacked only 12 times on nearly 450 pass attempts in 2009, or why Jason White was sacked a mere nine times on nearly 400 passing attempts in 2004. Keeping your quarterback's jersey clean is one of the advantages to the spread offense, so I think Turner brings up a good point.

    I think Bradford is smart enough and hard working enough to make the transition at the next level (instead, my question is whether he'll survive the process when it's all said and done). But it's going to be a transition, and that transition involves much more than whether or not he'll be able to handle a snap from under center. There's much more to it than that.


    Quote Originally Posted by thermobee View Post
    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second. By mid way through the first we'll know what the Qb situations is and we can react. Plus this year that second round pick has a great value and we might be able to move down AND grab Colt McCoy.
    I prefer Suh in the first round as well, and I think Colt will be there in the second, though he's also going to have a transition ahead of him, too.
    Last edited by Nick; -04-12-2010 at 08:57 AM.
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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by thermobee View Post
    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second.
    Definitely not the only one, Thermo. Since day 1 my draft strategy has been 1. Suh, 2. BQBA (assumedly McCoy), 3. Danario Alexander. But there's 3 variables that have to be factored:

    1. How good will Bradford be?
    2. How good will McCoy be?
    3. What's the chance that McCoy is available at #33?

    My answers.....

    1. He'll be outstanding. The shoulder appears to be 100%, and he looks to be on top of the heap.

    2. He'll be outstanding......in the right system. From what I've seen/read/heard, there is little difference between Bradford and McCoy from the line to 25 yards out. Both are quick & intelligent decision makers with excellent accuracy. The difference? Everything beyond 25 yards. At 25+, Bradford is the superior QB.

    3. This is the tricky one. I think, that is THINK, he'll be available at #33, but I'm just not sure the Vikes pass him. If one of the top Corners is available to the Vikes they'll probably pass on McCoy, but if not.....
    Last edited by HUbison; -04-12-2010 at 03:33 PM.
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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by thermobee View Post
    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second. By mid way through the first we'll know what the Qb situations is and we can react. Plus this year that second round pick has a great value and we might be able to move down AND grab Colt McCoy.

    You are not alone

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by thermobee View Post
    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second. By mid way through the first we'll know what the Qb situations is and we can react. Plus this year that second round pick has a great value and we might be able to move down AND grab Colt McCoy.
    I do agree, and I do think that Colt will excel in our WCO scheme, but if Jermaine Gresham was there at the top of the second I would give him great consideration.

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Solid article. I wanted to highlight this part particularly...



    More than a few times, when someone brings up a concern about Bradford not playing in a pro-style offense, the response is, "But Bradford took a lot of snaps under center his freshman year, so it won't be a problem." Of course, being able to physically handle the snap from under center probably isn't the biggest reason people bring up the transition from spread to pro-style offense. It's reasons like the ones Norv Turner highlights here.

    As the name would imply, the spread offense spreads the defense out across the field, not only stretching them perhaps too thin but also creating mismatches against receiving targets while limiting the options of their defense in terms of pressure.

    Sure, you can bring seven defenders in a pressure package if you want, but that means at least one of my five receiving targets is uncovered and the rest are likely in single coverage. You can walk your linebackers out to cover my slot target, but chances are he's much faster and it won't be tough making that throw given the separation.

    Don't get me wrong, Sam Bradford has a very quick, accurate release. But there's a reason Landry Jones was also sacked only 12 times on nearly 450 pass attempts in 2009, or why Jason White was sacked a mere nine times on nearly 400 passing attempts in 2004. Keeping your quarterback's jersey clean is one of the advantages to the spread offense, so I think Turner brings up a good point.

    I think Bradford is smart enough and hard working enough to make the transition at the next level (instead, my question is whether he'll survive the process when it's all said and done). But it's going to be a transition, and that transition involves much more than whether or not he'll be able to handle a snap from under center. There's much more to it than that.




    I prefer Suh in the first round as well, and I think Colt will be there in the second, though he's also going to have a transition ahead of him, too.

    You beat me to it (again!). That's just a HUGE unknown about Bradford, and going simply by his track record in taking sacks, he doesn't appear to be the absolute best player in the world in dealing with it. Is the reward worth the risk with Bradford? Find out next time on...As the NFL Turns

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by thermobee View Post
    I feel like I am the only one that thinks we should draft Suh and Colt McCoy in the second. By mid way through the first we'll know what the Qb situations is and we can react. Plus this year that second round pick has a great value and we might be able to move down AND grab Colt McCoy.
    I am all for Suh and Colt in second round.

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by thickandthin View Post
    I do agree, and I do think that Colt will excel in our WCO scheme, but if Jermaine Gresham was there at the top of the second I would give him great consideration.
    Exactly McCoy is the better WCO guy, I feel like Bradford is more for an Indy type offense. And you are right Gresham would be huge, but its hard to pass on a very servicable to great Qb at 33

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    Re: Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    2. He'll be outstanding......in the right system. From what I've seen/read/heard, there is little difference between Bradford and McCoy from the line to 25 yards out. Both are quick & intelligent decision makers with excellent accuracy. The difference? Everything beyond 25 yards. At 25+, Bradford is the superior QB.
    My main concern about McCoy is the intermediate routes. I'm not so worried about whether he can put a perfect spiral on a 60-yard bomb, but it's those "stick" throws that I've heard might not be his strong suit. All in all, I think arm strength is an overrated facet of quarterback evaluation, but there are enough parallels between McCoy and Alex Smith to have me a little worried.

    I like his accuracy. I like his mobility. I get a good impression of his intangibles and leadership qualifications. It's just not real reassuring when Devaney talks about a guy as saying his arm is only "good enough" at a time when nobody is saying anything bad about anybody.

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